The Detourists

Rock River at Grand Detour, Illinois.

Image via Wikipedia

We came to Davenport, across the Mississisppi from Rock Island, down from Grand Detour. The village is named because of an odd turn in the Rock River. Grand Detour is the site where John Deere invented the first successful steel plow. Many of the village’s founders came from Vermont, and in the sunset of the 1800’s, artists were rumored to live here.  They said that Orson Welles spent several summers here as a boy at a family hotel.

What they called the Grand Detour was honestly only a blip.  A common oxbow on the Rock River, looking from above for all the world on the plain like the manifestation of the alluvial hiccup.

We came from Chicago along the riparian margins.  We sluiced ourselves from the world.  Turbidity like smoke in the air. The hyporheic zone is a region beneath and lateral to a stream bed, where there is mixing of shallow groundwater and surface water. The flow dynamics and behavior in this zone (termed hyporheic flow) is needful for handshakes between the surface water and groundwater, as well as fish spawning and other unspoken things.

We came from St. Anthony where The Falls no longer fall, now called St. Paul, now called Minneapolis.  We came from a place where a city swallowed a forgotten city, named for a sickly hermit drowned forgotten and was too soon made the saint of lost things.

They say he died of too much water.  They called it dropsy then, an abnormal accumulation of fluid beneath the skin.  Perhaps he never recovered from his shipwreck.  Maybe working as a cook put too much salt in his kidneys. Nobody knows. He drowned inside his own skin.

The Falls were born 10,000 years ago, rivaling her Oriental twin Nigara with a sheer drop of 50 yards, turbid as smoke in the air, with a storming roar roiling miles across the open plains, terrifying the short-faced bears and sabretooth tigers.  The Falls were monstrous then — tearing off, spewing out monumental chunks of limestone as it chewed through North America at blinding 4 feet per year.

Only 150 years ago, a capitalist won his first claim on the land by the falls, a lumberjack with his sawmill and his dam plans.  Within six years, when the Excursionists straggled by to see them, The Falls were gone.


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